Last week, I wrote about my trip to Southern Sudan and Southern Darfur. Since I have been back on U.S. soil, several people have asked what we can do about the situation. Many conservatives, and indeed some Democrats, have asked, "Are you proposing military intervention?"
Obviously, we do not have the troops to partake in any military action even if we wanted to. There have been suggestions that we organize a bombing of the Khartoum supply lines into Darfur. That might work, but then the question is what country would do the bombing? While the situation has the attention of some of the world, it does not have the attention of the world's leaders. Without a political motivation such as public pressure, oil or terrorism prevention, the world leaders will not act. Politicians want to save their political skin.
We have seen this before. The Clinton administration refused to call the situation in Rwanda genocide. It would have meant an influx of refugees to United States, and President Clinton did not want that problem. He later called it a mistake. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. But like other world leaders, he was apprised of the situation at the time, and yet he chose not to act.
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President Bush has not acted in Darfur and Southern Sudan. Some U.S. officials have said that the Khartoum government is cooperating in the war on terror, so we shouldn't rock the boat. That is short sighted. The problem is that hunger and war and the lack of resources is not only morally reprehensible, it is also a breeding ground for terrorism.
The only option now is for us to act, as in you and me.
What does that mean? From my days working in the mental health field, I know that the first thing you must do is name the problem. We need to call it for what it is: genocide, slavery and hunger. There is hunger in the United States. Some adults and children do not have anything to eat, missing even a full day of food. However, people in Sudan might go for well over a week with only water and leaves. We also need to change the language and call the "abductees" from the years of war between Northern and Southern Sudan what they really are: slaves. If you are taken against your will, forced into labor, beaten, raped and given scraps for food, then that is slavery.
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Next, we need the churches, synagogues and mosques in the United States to press President Bush to make his last address to the United Nations a meaningful one, one that will make an impact on the rest of the world and to let it be known that the United States stands with those who have no voice. President Bush needs to take the countries to task that refuse to call Darfur genocide and refuse to recognize that slavery still exists in Sudan.
We also need to understand that, as members of the human race, we have a responsibility to others. There are many good non-government organizations that can provide real help. For instance, Christian Solidarity International, the group who took us to the Sudan, operates on low overhead and provides basic assistance, but the need is so overwhelming that they can provide for only a relative few. What is astounding is that just a little bit of money can go so far. Fifty cents a day can feed an adult and flip-flops are welcome shoes. School can be held under a tree if there is money for teachers. Most of the children have never held a pencil or a pen or have ever seen a book.
The psychological wounds of 23 years of war will not be wiped away soon, but meeting the basic needs of these human beings is an important first step. Providing the basic technology such as solar power for cooking and agricultural techniques for irrigation can make these people self-sufficient. It is a moral imperative for those of us who have so much. A little bit of help will go a very long way.